Montreal Culture and Linkup

Noticed an event on Montreal Linkup set up by the Linkup founder. In it, he says:

I’d like to help Montreal Linkup eventually become just as active, so I am scheduling a series of events on the Montreal site to help get things started. I will not be able to attend this event myself, but I wanted to provide this opportunity for people on Montreal Linkup to gather for dinner and get acquainted in a relaxed, comfortable setting.

(Follows: a description of the restaurant, apparently coming from a guide.)

Given my ongoing commentary on the Montreal Linkup and Quebec culture, I really had to say something.

Here’s my message to him:


Though you may do the same for all of the less active Linkups, I get the impression that you’re trying to get the Montreal Linkup up and running.
As a cultural anthropologist from Montreal, I feel compelled to give you my perspective on what may or may not work. I blogged specifically about this issue.

Since then, I participated in two events in Montreal with people from New York Linkup.

Obviously, you know your business very well and this is not meant as a way to “teach you your job,” but in case these comments make a difference, I wanted to send them to you.

Clearly, every Linkup has its own life, feel, “personality.” From direct contacts with members from Boston and New York City, it seems that these differences are quite consequential. My argument is that Montreal might be even “more different.” Businesses from the U.S. that have established branches here were either already well-established outside of the U.S. or went on to become quite well-established elsewhere. Chances are that your success outside of North America (Paris, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai) will bring success to the Montreal Linkup, and vice-versa.
The key here is to adapt to the culture.

So let me pinpoint some differences between Montreal and other North American cities in the hope of helping you adapt Linkup to Montreal. Similarities between Montreal and the rest of North America are quite obvious but differences are making adaptation desirable.

The first thing to realize is that, as you probably know, Francophones make up for the majority of Montreal’s population (including a significant part of the business community which seems to be your primary target). This is not to say that you alienate two-thirds of the population by having an English-only site. After all, most of us French-speakers also read and write in English fairly frequently. (Contrary to Paris, English proficiency may not necessarily correlate with business-mindedness.) Yet the sociolinguistic constitution of the city might help explain why homegrown solutions are usually preferred. Quebec portals and blogs are really quite popular and even the traditional media are controlled locally (in a unique and much-bemoaned example of vertical integration).
Even English-speaking Montrealers perceive themselves as significantly distinct from the rest of North America. This is no mere city rivalry.It’s an actual identity.

While it has little to do with Hollywood or New York City, Montreal has its own star system. Montreal celebrities aren’t necessarily well-known outside of Quebec but they have a tremendous impact on the culture and appear in most of the media. Those celebrities are perceived as very personable and people meet them regularly, as they live in specific neighborhoods and tend to “hang out” at specific cafés, bars, and restaurants (hint: not Nizza). If a Montreal celebrity were to host an event, chances of getting the word out and the ball rolling would increase tremendously. Few celebrities are truly part of the two language communities but attendees may come from both communities if they really feel compelled.

To compare with Boston, locations listed for the Montreal Linkup (Saint-Jérôme, Joliette, Granby, Drumondville) are more like Springfield than like Cambridge. Similarly, your “Paris area” sounds as if the New York area included Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Bangor. A common way to divide up the Montreal region is (Island of) Montreal, South Shore, Laval, North Shore. Quebec itself is divided up in very distinct (and large) regions (the aforementioned cities are all in different regions).

Quebec culture in general tends to emphasize informality in many circumstances. One reason the Montreal Linkup appears to only be working with a specific group of entrepreneurs is that most other people are quite fond of impromptu, informal gatherings.
For an example of a homegrown network, you might want to look into the history of YulBiz, started by members of YulBlog (a blogger network).
The YulBlog rules may clash with Linkup’s “Good Hosting Guide.”

By the way, the website for Nizza is
Sorry to be blunt but the link you gave is for a restaurant in Minneapolis. It might just be that you were going through a list for all Linkup locations but it makes us think that your choice was arbitrary. There are many great restaurants in Montreal to host Linkup-type events, including way too many French restaurants. It doesn’t sound like Nizza would be a first choice for anyone to make.

Again, I hope some of this can help you understand what needs to be done to make Montreal Linkup a success.


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8 thoughts on “Montreal Culture and Linkup”

  1. wow! True that… My friend from Virginia doesnt know who Roy Dupuis is and I am always like “the Nikita guy!”.

    The entrepreneur club for link up is going well though. It seems as if everyone here is restless with large corporations and wish to start something new. Thanks for the info. Did he ever write back to you??

  2. Nessie,

    Thanks for the comment.
    I did think about the entrepreneur club. From the outside (and description), this club does fit in Montreal culture, for many reasons, and it also fits in Linkup culture in terms of being about a special form of “networking.” It also sounds like YulBiz is doing something fairly similar, starting from an existing local group (of bloggers) and adding a business dimension.
    I didn’t receive a reply and I believe the remotely set up event never really took off. There are new events being set up and those might work.

    As for Roy Dupuis, he happens to be my cousin and I do use his example in class, on occasion. Students in the U.S., especially women, did know who he was and some really liked him. In Quebec, Roy and many others are really part of the culture. The example I had in mind was more of the kind of people who participate in all the TV shows, especially in French, from «Tout le monde en parle» to «À la Di Stasio»… Coming back to Quebec, it’s really funny to notice how that culture is being set up…

  3. Morgan: Same thing could be said about Facebook. Do you have thoughts on what makes it hard for Linkup to work in Montreal?

    What’s funny is that I wrote this entry a while ago, when some people were still trying to do things with Linkup. Since that time, some of us have met through Linkup but the only events organised through Montreal Linkup are “Entrepreneur and Business Ideas Coffeemeets.” Personally, I would say that Yulblog, YulBiz, *Camps (e.g. BarCamp), and other events are more successful than anything which has happened through Montreal Linkup.

  4. Just wanted to comment on my experience with linkup in the San Francisco area: The idea is great and it’s really working well here – the problem is the owner/founder, who’s extremely rude, intolerant, unreasonable and acts in an unbelievable way. He has created his own little univers in which he rules as ‘god’ and that power has gone to his head. Any kind of criticism will result
    in the critic being thrown out of the group. Even ‘unacceptable’ grammar (in his mind) will
    result in suspension of email privileges. So, since you had some constructive criticism to
    offer, don’t expect to get an answer from the founder being grateful. In fact, he was probably fuming from your post and vowed to never let you become a member at linkup. Here ins SFO there are many, many people who have been thrown out of linkup, just because of some momentary whim of the founder. Kind of like a dictator, who will behead you in a heartbeat, if he feels like it, whether
    it’s justified or not.

  5. Varinia: Thanks a lot for the comment! Have heard similar things among some linkup members outside of Montreal.
    If these things are true, it’s rather hard to imagine how the system might work outside of a very specific group. Especially for an online venture which relies on friendly social relationships.
    The principles behind Linkup do sound interesting. But for Linkup to convince more people to join, openness would be preferred.
    Ah, well…

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